Comforting Words: 03/2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blessings in the Storm

Her question was simple enough. Yet, I had to pause to allow the tears [of a deep sense] of joy to fall.

This genteel Catholic nun who has taken on the task of guiding my spiritual life surprised me with her recall of the name of the Kirk Franklin compact disc “Songs for the Storm Volume I.”

“Claudette,” she softly asked, “did you experience God through the storm?”

I wanted to be poetic and say “let me count the ways.” Instead, I cried as I struggled for the words to explain the “peace that passeth all understanding,” that is welling up from the pit of my soul. Finally, I was able to share the stories, as an example, of my first internet dating experience and the ones subsequent with her.

My little nun laughed heartily as she sweetly affirmed the fact that she noticed that I no longer question or allow anyone to question my intuition or gut feelings. “Walk gently my child as you continue to explore the fullness of Sofia who is you,” she said as we hugged goodbye.

Her question stayed with me as I drove away and I decided to create a mental 'God Experience Journal'. Each time I consciously recognized the presence of the Divine, I would note it and thank Him.

It was Friday afternoon (March 23) and as I left the ‘monastery’, I made my way across town to lie on a bed and allow another woman to gently guide me – this time to meet my body – the temple of the Divine.

This was one doctor’s order (psychologist’s) that I am so glad I followed. Like so many women who survived childhood sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence, my connection with my body has been very tenuous to say the least and through these sessions, I am learning to no longer be ashamed of and therefore disassociate from my body.

It was my third session with K and as her hands finally ran over my left hand, I said to her “K, for the first time, I was totally with you!” She understood. I made a mental note in my 'God Experience Journal'.

As is now my routine, after my massage session I picked up my senior citizen for supper. Earlier that day I had called her to find out what she wanted to do – whether she wanted to go out or should I bring something over as she was not feeling too well. “What do you feel for my love?” I asked.

“I feel Italian,” she replied and so we headed for the nearest Olive Gardens (her favourite place) and while we waited for a table we "visited" – that’s the Canadian equivalent of the Jamaican saying "we draw long bench.”

My next notation in my God Experience Journal came when our waitress asked, “What are you celebrating tonight ladies?” and we both chirped without consultation, “Friendship!”

It was well after 9:00 p.m. when I dropped her home and she reminded me of my promise to be in our Church next Sunday. It was time to return and I knew it but this Sunday (March 25) I was already committed to be somewhere else.

The next note in my 'God Experience Journal', came after I got home that Friday night and responded to a voice mail message. It was a police officer calling to give me information pertaining to my safety. He asked me a question, however, that also left me wondering when the games would be over.

Admittedly panicked, I made several phone calls to activate both my spiritual and physical security systems as I thanked God for the fact that She had put these ‘resources’ in place for me.

Saturday came just on time and as my T’ai Chi Master hugged me in appreciation for my attendance to her class – I knew that this was another God experience as I was the one benefiting from her lessons yet she was thanking me.

“Where are you from?” this not-at-all petite but nevertheless confident woman asked my daughter and I as she entered the hot tub at the fitness centre we go to each Saturday. Her friend, who was already in the tub, reprimanded her for asking that question but I instinctively knew that it was another God experience moment and I smiling said to her, “We are originally from Jamaica.”

“You two are so beautiful, tall and gorgeous!” she literally exclaimed and for the hour long aqua-cise session she would not leave my side. While my daughter huffed and puffed behind us, my new acquaintance, this blonde hair, blue eye lady with her orange tan, and I jumped, jogged and laughed as we tried to keep up with the lithe instructor.

The words, “You get some rest, you are okay now, I'll take care of you,” brought me the peace I needed to fall asleep on Saturday night. Sleep had evaded me after the call from the officer on Friday and hearing those words from an unlikely source was another note for my Journal.

She was making history – the first woman to lead the Eucharistic Service in this ancient Anglo-Catholic church. This woman was also an important part of my own Canadian history that is being written.

So on International Woman’s Day, when she mentioned to the audience at my work place that this moment was to happen, I made a mental note that I would be there. Though I felt safe and secure in my friend’s bed, I knew I had to leave and go to the little church in the inner city of Edmonton.

I made another note in my 'God Experience Journal' of two facts - this Reverend was another ‘little’ yet powerful woman who had entered my life and one of the Scriptures that was read was the same one my Spiritual Director had offered as my grounding passage only a couple days before:

“Do not remember the former things,
Or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches;
For I give water in the wilderness, river in the desert,
To give drink to my chosen people,
The people who I formed for myself
So that they might declare and praise me.”
(Isaiah 43: 18 – 21)

How am I experiencing God now that the storm is over? How am I experiencing God as some turbulence is still on the seas?

I continue to count the ways.

The words of Kirk Franklin’s song, “Blessing in the Storm” is not enough to describe it, yet I offer them to you or any one who might be finding it hard to experience God in your (or their) own storm.

When I cannot hear the sparrow sing
And I cannot feel a melody
There's a secret place
That's full of grace
There's a blessing in the storm

Help me sing it
There's a blessing in the storm

When the sickness won't leave my body
And the pain just won't leave my soul
I get on my knees
And say "Jesus please!"

There's a blessing in the storm
Help me sing it

There's a blessing in the storm
When I cannot see love again
And the raindrops won't ever end
If you just hold on
Those clouds will soon be gone

There's a blessing in the storm
Help me sing it
There's a blessing in the storm



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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ready to Heal My Heart

I have not laughed so hard in years – truly!

We were in stitches, my daughter and I. She was trying to get me to stop laughing so I could tell her the full story but that was hard.

My uncontrollable laughter had started twenty minutes before getting her on the phone. In fact, it started after my woman-friend, Anni, got me out of a tight spot – thank God!

By now you must be wondering what the heck I am on about. Well here is the story.

Following up on my man-friend’s advice to “get out, hit the clubs and show off my fabulous self,” I checked in with my soon-to-be twenty year old daughter exactly how one gets a date these days.

I listened keenly as she gave me dating tips, some that I had given her years before and some that were so new to me they seemed outlandish! I was somewhat amused at how the roles had changed, nevertheless, I listened. Her last words to me, which was so cute, were “So, let’s go to the lounge this Saturday night!”

“No, I don’t know about that baby girl,” I responded, thinking that I had to absorb the information first and see how comfortable and how ready I was with all that she had told me. Further, there were some other options, like internet dating, which I also wanted to consider some more.

Truth be told, I am not ready for a 'relationship' but as Lance said, there was no harm in my getting out more, beyond the company of my women-friends, the senior citizen that I hang out with most Fridays and the women at work. “You are not looking for a partner; you’re just having some fun – something you have not had for a while!” Lance commanded me in his usual style.

I have always had a presence on one particular internet chat/dating site but not as someone looking for a date but to offer the services of Comfort Foundation. Given my new status, I decided to change my profile a bit and to add my profile on another site. This seemed more comfortable for me, allowing me time to 'check out' the people before having to actually meet.

Well, no sooner than I had posted my profile (and yes, photograph) on the new site, my mail box started to fill up! “Damn, I’m hot!” (just kidding).

The experience of internet dating is a topic for a post all by itself. What I want to share in this post is the fact that now I know that I am ready to heal my heart.

After checking out a few of the persons who emailed me, via hotmail messenger (yes, I created an account as this is part and parcel of internet dating it seems) and other sources, I narrowed it down to one potential. Immediately, I placed a call to Lance to find out, what I should do next. Remember people, I have not dated in 16 years!

His advice was meet the person asap, instead of chatting online for months to finally meet and realize that there is no true chemistry or depth of personality. He was right on the money as that is so important to me - honesty, intelligence, spirituality and depth of personality!

Scared at the prospect of meeting someone basically blindly (I have shared in an early post about the horrors of my first blind date), I agreed to meet this person at a bookstore with a coffee shop early evening (Thursday).

Something told me to call my woman-friend Anni and meet her for an early supper before this ‘date’. So we did. After the first course, Anni straight facedly asked me, “So what is your back up plan to get out of there fast if you don’t feel the right energy?”

“Duh, I don’t have one,” was my stupid response. "Sit and grin until it's appropriate to go?"

“Claudette, you need a plan to get out fast, so let’s come up with something now.” Anni instructed.

We plotted until we agreed on what time she would call me and what codes we would use to either confirm that the vibes were right or that I am getting the hell out of there.

And so off I went, punctual as ever for my 7:00 p.m. meeting. I walked in and immediately spotted someone who fit the profile somewhat. I approached and when the person confirmed that they were the one, I almost ran out of the store!

“No, you must be polite,” my bigger self told me.

So I took a seat, not removing my nice black trench coat. That should have been the first clue to the other party that this woman was not feeling anything!

As the individual went on and on about themselves, their job and their properties, etc., I was clutching my cell phone, willing it to ring!

I smiled politely for 10 minutes, listening to this person sell themselves but I was not buying. Too short, too much perfume, too many superficialities and I just could not see beyond the dry hair and skin!

I tried to be my best spiritual self and remind myself that this was a child of God sitting in front of me but I also knew the Divine would never want me to settle for less than I truly deserve – even for an hour – been there, done that for too long.

Finally, after my second refusal for anything to drink and my noticing that the individual’s credit card was declined for a $1.50 bottle of milk, my cell phone rang and it was Anni – right on time.

“Oh dear…” I commiserated as she told me her exact location and asked how is it going, “I can get there in ten minutes.” I was on my feet as I was saying this and Anni was laughingly saying: "And I will meet you at your place with a bottle of Bailey's [my favourite drink when I do have one] to get this story!"

The individual got the message and as I walked out asked whether they could email me. I did my 20-year old's routine response, “Whatever.”

The uncontrollable laughter started as I drove away from the bookstore – not at the individual but the experience and the overwhelming feeling of freedom and happiness I felt.

Since Thursday evening, I have been telling this story of my first internet dating experience to my daughter, all my woman-friends and Lance and with each re-telling the laughter and the feeling of joy deepen.

In a few weeks, I believe I will be able to write a post about “Dating After 40,” but for the meantime, I am doing as Melody Beattie, the author of The Language of Letting Go and Journey to the Heart, writes:

“Maybe some deceived us unconsciously or betrayed us deliberately [and we say] I can deal with that…they have their own issues. I forgive…And we do forgive. But
now it may be time to learn gentleness, compassion, understanding and
forgiveness for ourselves as well. We don’t open our hearts by ignoring the
break lines. We take our hand, knowing its held by God, and gently run our
fingers across each crack. Yes, it’s there. Yes, I feel it. Yes, I’m ready to
heal my heart.”

Yes, I am ready to heal my heart.



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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Celebrate Who You Are!

I was partially naked and so too was she.

Neither of our semi-nudity was of any concern as all the other women of various sizes, shapes and skin colours were totally naked.

This was our second time at the pool – my daughter and mine – and I had just told her all happenings of my week.

Mummy, I know this might sound bad but it is the truth,” she said.


“I must say that since Aunty J left your life, you are such a different person!” she remarked. “You are doing all these things for yourself, you have lost weight although not in a healthy way but you look fabulous!”

“Thanks babes,” I responded with tears welling up my eyes.

“No seriously,” she continued. “You’re doing T’ai Chi, therapeutic massages, we come swimming and do the sauna each week, you are going out with your woman-friends, you lover you job and you are laughing so much!”

My baby girl was right – she usually is. My personal physician only the day before (Friday, March 9) had confirmed what she was saying (although, understandably so with all that is pending, she still would not take me off the anti-depressants and tranquilizers).

“Claudette," my physician said, “we got the results back from your blood work up and your diabetes is well, well under control for the last three months.” The results from the lab was showing that not only has the diabetes been under control for the last three months but all of my other results surpassed anything my doctors, including my diabetes and other specialists, had imagined would happen without my going on insulin and other radical treatments.

This is as a result, first of the depression and not having any appetite for a few months since October 2006 and then in January 2007, I made a conscious decision to stop eating certain foods. For years I have been trying to cut out sweets, eat more fruits and eat smaller portions without any success or real support. Now, through the "gift of goodbye," but more so the Grace and Will of God -- I have done it!

Thursday, March 8 was International Women’s Day and as I sat in the gymnasium at work, where a special function was being held in honour of women, I contemplated what the theme meant to me - “Celebrate Who You Are!”

Almost six months ago now, I could never have imagined myself being alive much less celebrating who I am. The guest speaker, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, in her presentation asked the question how many of us women in the room had any interest in entering politics. About five of us raised our hands and mine was among them.

As my baby girl commented on my well-being, I remembered raising my hand in that hall filled with women with stories of travail, trials and triumph – each in her own way. I too have my own story; it is one that I first started to share on this blog and with anyone who would listen.

Listening to my daughter, as she continued to compare, in her recollection, how I was for the last sixteen years with now and particularly in the last few years since we migrated to Canada, I received another affirmation of my life’s purpose.

Yes, I am one fabulous 161 lbs, black woman!

Yes, I am both a woman of strength and a strong woman.

Yes, there are still challenges (financial, academic and legal) ahead of me in the next few months but guess what?

I feel victorious!

My beloved minister, the one who I have not seen in months because I have not been at church – depending instead on a very private and solitary journey of prayer, rituals and thanksgiving, which has been ably supported by my Spiritual Director – has this saying:

“People know when they are tolerated, welcomed or celebrated!”
Looking back, for sixteen years my daughter and I were tolerated – and that is okay. I bless and thank the people who have finally come into their truth and can honestly hang up their telephones on us both even when we call out of good will. Their gestures have taught me how not to be in this world and for that I am truly grateful!

It is now time to celebrate who I am (and who my 6’ tall, beautiful, wise and strong black daughter is).

Serendipity has brought Lance back into my life when I needed that kind of support most. A couple days ago he challenged me to get out more – “Girl from your photographs you have not aged one bit since I last saw you twelve years ago. In fact, you look more fabulous now than every before! Hit the clubs, socialize, get out there and show off that gorgeous self of yours!” he commanded me.

Reminding him that that is not my style nor scene, I however promised to “get out more.” My not doing so had nothing to do with the lack of “fish” biting but more because I have no intention of walking blindly into another relationship – without sorting through my 'baggage' and making sure that “the other” has done the same.

Who wants to repeat – for sixteen days, months or years – what I have just, thankfully, come through?

In her book, “What You Think of Me is None of my Business," Terry Cole-Whittaker writes, "To the degree that we can take a really good look at ourselves and see ourselves objectively and lovingly, we are able to participate more fully in this life.”

I have been looking in the mirror, for several years now, but now I have one behind, beside, underneath as well as in front of me – unmasking every secret that would cause me to ever again tolerate being tolerated!

My friend Anni says I am glowing and she has re-named me Blossom! I love it!

My Scripture for this week puts it in greater perspective. It is from Ezekiel 34: 25 – 31. The verse that explains that glow is verse 31:

“You [Claudette and you dear reader] are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture and I
am your God.”

With that in my heart – why would I (or you) not be celebrating who I am?

Blessings as you “Celebrate Who You are,”


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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Still Dancing and Loving It!

Different year, different place but the affirmation is the same.

Soon after joining the Universal Centre of Truth (UCT) in Kingston, I had the pleasure of being part of the team that planned and coordinated the visit of Reverend Edwene Gaines to Jamaica. She is popular in the Unity church network and is a powerful inspirational and prosperity teacher.

It was her personal story that struck me and propelled me into the decision months later (in 2001) to travel to her ranch in Tennessee for a weekend retreat/workshop. The name of the retreat was by itself intriguing – Dancing with Your Dark Side – but what was more compelling was the knowledge that I had a dark (shadow) side!

My conscious spiritual journey had begun only a year prior, after leaving a high-paying dream job with a regional agency that had me traveling throughout the Caribbean. The separation from my family was too much. Although the financial reward was great, allowing us to purchase a house and keep our mortgage payments current, the impact that the distance was having on us as a unit and as a couple was too high a price. So we decided that I should return home.

Not more than a month after returning to Jamaica from St. Lucia, my journey deepened one Sunday morning in 2000. As I entered the hall where the church service was being held goose bumps covered my body. I sat with my mouth opened (and you know how big that is), my head shaking and tears streaming down my face as the female minister, Reverend Dr. Sheila McKeithen of UCT, delivered a message that I am convinced, to this day, was written for me.

I knew that morning that I was where I was supposed to be. The rest of that story is for another post.

The Universal Centre of Truth was where I started to learn about “consciousness,” and how thoughts and intentions affect one’s life. By the time I got to Edwene’s ranch, my understanding expanded even further and I started to see how my experiences up to that point were part of my dark side.

The personality that was named Claudette back in 1965 was living from the wounds, the darkness, that needed to be healed. I left that ranch knowing that the work had just begun and that at the top of the list was becoming more aware of my emotions.

I had to understand my feelings and their roots, how not to be afraid of expressing them while at the same time not letting them control me. The message was how to see my emotions and feelings as a barometer and use them to create a more honest and complete life.

Sitting in the airport in Atlanta, Georgia in 2001, waiting for my connecting flight (my woman-friend AA had met me there a few days earlier and we drove to and from Tennessee) I realized how blessed I was to have been at that retreat. I also realized that my life would take another turn – one that would take me deeper into ‘being’ who the Divine meant for me to be.

I left that ranch affirmed – that the abuse, the trials, the pain, the challenges and even the joys of my life up to that point were not in vain or without deeper meaning. Fast forward six years and I am again sitting in different airport in a different country – on the exact date and day as I was then. I know this as I took with me on this trip to Montreal my “Daily Word for Lent” – a journal that I use almost every year at this time.

My connecting flight to Edmonton from Ottawa is delayed and so I decided to write this post reflecting on another moment of synchronicity in my life.

Two books were my travelling companions and now I realize why I took them. This is possibly my tenth reading of Gary Zukav’s “Seat of the Soul,” but as my daughter and ‘son-in-law’ hovered, impatient for me to close my bag so that they could take it down to the car, I threw it in. The other is a book that a colleague at work loan me – “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind,” by Dr. Joseph Murphy.

Switching between both on the flight to Winnipeg then on to Montreal and with the realization that this trip was happening the same date as my trip to Edwene, the messages of both books had special significance.

Basically, both authors offer to those readers who care to ‘hear’ (are you one?) that:

  1. Intentions and choices are pivotal in the unfolding of how one experiences life – painfully or joyfully.
  2. To be unaware of one’s feelings and emotions is “foolish” and although you will grow, as you must, life will be a painful – sooner or later.
  3. Love (not romantic love) is the source of life and the healer of life and all things.
  4. Negative thoughts bring negative experiences and positive thoughts bring positive experiences.
  5. What you give, you get therefore give what you want to receive.

These teachings are in keeping with what both the UCT and Edwene offered. Over the years, I have tried to ‘walk’ these teachings as I have come to believe, as Socrates so brilliantly summarized – “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Indeed, over the years I have faltered and paid the price – sooner or later – I knew that then and I know that now.

The last few years of my life, particularly through my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training, I have intentionally gotten “in touch with my feelings,” and have been very mindful of my intentions and particularly my choices.

Have I been a total success? Certainly not but I have experienced a deep sense of integrity, a sense of openness and honesty, a more keen interest to see justice done and a connection and love for people that was never before my reality.

During the second day of my meetings in Montreal (which was actually with the same group of people who ‘held me up’ in prayer and with the singing of gospel songs back in October 2006) my inner work was affirmed.

My heart was full as I shared with my brothers and sisters my journey since they saw me last. I gave them the ‘full bill and receipt’, although a couple already knew quite a bit of the story.

There was a part of me that was scared to be so open about the issues – given that this was a group of ‘black’ people who stereotypically are not into the whole depression and therapy stuff. Our culture taught us to be tough, to pick yourself up and dust yourself off immediately – not to allow the ‘slave master’ to get the better of you. Black women learnt this lesson especially well.

To my surprise, not only was there a sense of being completely embraced but on the second day of the meetings they named me Chair-Elect for this National (Canada-wide) Steering Committee!

What an affirmation – not of me but of the work of Spirit in my life.

My flight will soon be announced and I will return to a city that I have come to call home, where much has happened and continues to happen. Much that is different from what I had imagined back in 2002 when we migrated to Canada and even up to October 2006.

However, through the Grace and Mercy of the Divine, I know that “all things are working together for good,” because I believe in a Power greater than myself and any human being. My intentions, my choices and my thoughts are pure and are continually being purified by the One Power and Presence that I have consciously re-committed the rest of my journey to.

Life is what you ‘think and intend’ it to be. You attract people and experiences that support your thoughts and your intentions. I know this to be true as since the recent upheaval in my life, I have seen the fruits of my thoughts and intentions by the people who enfolded me.

A special word of thanks to B for her quick action, Dr. P for her prayer support, AA for her support even though she was sleepy having spent the night delivering babies and Lance, my man, ha-ha, in response to my call from Montreal.

I danced in 2001 and through the strength of the Divine and with these and the other wonderful and true friends who have said yes to the Divine to journey with me, I am waltzing daily with my dark side until she is tired and takes a seat.



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